Secret Solitude, Haunting Beauty
Georgia’s Driftwood Beach offers an oasis of springtime peace and solitude.
Travel to the northernmost beach of Jekyll Island, a small mass of land between mainland Georgia and the Atlantic Ocean, and you’ll encounter a sight unlike any other in the United States—Driftwood Beach. It is a surreal arboreal graveyard, hewn from driftwood and living trees, and sculpted over centuries by the waves of St. Simons Sound.
“It’s what ecologists call a boneyard beach,” says Jessica Scott, marketing and communications manager for the Jekyll Island Authority, the entity that governs and preserves the island. “The reason it looks the way it does is that erosion from the water has pulled the sand out from under the trees and they’ve fallen over. The salt water petrified the trees, so the bugs and sun don’t rot them, and it’s just beautiful to look at. It’s like an old man stretching into wild yoga positions, or hands coming out of the earth and reaching toward the sky.”
Such unique visuals have made Driftwood Beach a one-of-a-kind choice for a variety of visitors. Many marriage proposals happen on the beach, Scott says, as do the weddings that soon follow. The site also attracts photographers, painters, writers and others who wish to be inspired by the area’s striking springtime beauty. “We just had a film student out there filming for a class at the Savannah College of Art and Design,” Scott adds. “An international edition of Vogue magazine just did a shoot there as well. And lots of painters come out, set up easels and paint the sunrise, which is just gorgeous. You can’t find a sunrise like that anywhere else.”
Many families also gravitate toward Driftwood Beach during spring, and not just to shoot memorable family portraits. “Tidal pools form out on the beach and they’re great for kids to go out and play in,” says Scott. “You usually get a microcosm of sea life in them, crabs and fish, and they’re lots of fun.”
“It’s really a family-friendly place,” she adds. “It’s a quiet location where parents can bring out beach chairs and relax, while the kids run around, play in the sand, swing from nature’s jungle gym and put their feet in the pools. And even when it’s really hot, the breeze on the beach is great. Visitors, especially from warmer climates, always seem to appreciate that it stays nice and cool.”
Whether you need sunscreen, beach chairs or a picnic lunch, Scott recommends checking out the nearby Beach Village. Stores like Maxwell’s General Store can provide sandals, coolers and other supplies, while Jekyll Market and the Club Café offer a wide range of food choices. “Visitors to the beach can also check out the Driftwood Bistro, which is right off of Driftwood Beach, for a bite,” says Scott. “We have a great bunch of merchants on the island, and that one’s a local favorite.”
While it is an ideal destination for artists and tourists, Driftwood Beach is not the best choice for swimmers, as the strong current and submerged trees can prove to be dangerous. Instead, visitors should explore Great Dunes Park and Glory Beach, both located mid-island, as beautiful and peaceful alternatives. “Jekyll Island has [11 kilometers] of coastline, and different experiences at every beach,” says Scott.
Travelers can access Jekyll Island via a number of airports, including one for small private planes on the island itself. The closest arrival spots for international visitors include Jacksonville International Airport, located just over an hour’s drive south of the island, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which is larger but further away.
Once travelers rent a car and drive to the island, admission is $6 (approximately Rs. 400) per vehicle, and visitors can remain there for the whole day. For those who want to spend more time on the island, weekly passes are available for $28 (approximately Rs. 1800). The island offers a number of housing options. “Large families that are visiting can rent private homes, and there are a variety of hotels as well,” says Scott. “There’s something for everyone, at every price point.”
Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City.